Prescribed Burns Could Put Smoke into Western Montana Skies
While we're all enjoying the smoke-free skies after that bout of bad air earlier this month, efforts to prevent future fires could mean some new smoke drifting into the blue.
National Forest managers are using this window of warm, dry weather to set off a few additional prescribed burns. Prescribed burns are a tool the Forest Service uses to clear away forest debris such as fallen logs and brush that can complicate fire fighting.
We're being told fire managers with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest were planning on starting some prescribed burns on the St. Joe River drainage today. That's the extensively forested valley south of the Lower Clark Fork Valley in Idaho. The Forest Service says that could send smoke across the divide into Montana, especially around Superior in Mineral County and along the Interstate 90 corridor while the burns are taking place. That includes the Dry Creek and Diamond Creek drainages on the Superior Ranger District of Lolo National Forest.
Additionally, Lolo National Forest may also be lighting some prescribed burns and will inform us when those are scheduled.
Prescribed burning is not only used to clear away debris for a healthier forest, but fire managers say it's an important step to remove "ladder fuels." That includes brush and understory growth which can allow wildfire to move off the forest floor, climbing into the trees where it can become a dangerous crown fire. Crown fires are extremely difficult to control and can move rapidly when driven by high winds.
Prescribed burns are usually scheduled in the spring, with the Forest Service using dry, fall weather as an opportunity for additional forestland treatment before winter begins.